Barr's Irn-Bru - Supporting Scottish Football

Steady Swansea Improving Under Monk



A few of us had raised eyebrows when Swansea City confirmed that long serving player Gary Monk would take up the hot-seat permanently at the Liberty stadium. The club have gone from strength to strength under previous managers Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. Winning promotion to the Premier League in 2011 and the League Cup in 2013 were superb highlights for the Swans.

But they continually lost their talented managers; Martinez and Rodgers were poached by bigger clubs and Laudrup fell out with the club’s board. After the Laudrup saga it felt like Swansea were heading for a bit of a decline. The appointment of Monk looked risky.

Could a novice thirty-five year old handle the pressures of the English Premier League?

Well Monk kept the Swans away from any real threat of relegation, finishing in a respectable twelfth spot. But then in the summer the Welsh side let go various talented, established stars such as Ben Davies, Michel Vorm, Pablo Hernandez, Chico Flores and Michu (Plus Jonathan de Guzman returned to his parent club).

That left many holes in the squad and various pundits guessing Swansea were destined for the drop.

But the manager did well keeping a core group at the Liberty Stadium. Tying down captain Ashley Williams was ideal as he’s a terrific leader on the pitch, who’ll always give his all for the team. Hanging onto last seasons scoring sensation, Wilfried Bony was another bit of smart business as he always carries a threat. Then you add in the wing talents of Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge who will always provide for the frontmen. Plus you’ve got Jonjo Shelvey attacking from central midfield, capable of chipping in with important goals.

Gary Monk, his board and the clubs scouting team have also done a fantastic job rebuilding the squad with new recruits.

Bringing back Ki Sung-Yueng was extremely canny. The South Korean is a very intelligent midfielder who keeps the ball moving and can provide ammunition from set-pieces. I still can’t fathom just why Laudrup decided to loan out the former Celtic man to Sunderland last term but he has already shown he fits in well with this Swans squad. He likes nothing more than taking a chance from the edge of the box, just look at his goal against Man Utd.

Lukasz Fabianski has arrived relishing the prospect of becoming a number one. He would have wanted more opportunities at Arsenal but now has the chance to prove himself in the South of Wales. That hunger has already seen the Pole keep two cleansheets in the opening four league games!

South American defenders Federico Fernandez and Jefferson Montero have yet to make a great impact but they did make their respective countries World Cup squads this summer. Just having them in the pool adds great depth to the squad.


French striker Bafetimbi Gomis has a good history scoring in Ligue 1 and his combative style  should cause defences problems.

The opening win of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford was impressive. Yes the United team that day wasn’t the best and was getting to grips with Louis van Gaal’s tactics but the Swans impressed with their determination not to just sit back and settle for a draw.

They also picked up wins over Burnley and WBA. Results that aren’t outstanding but its always a good sign when you pick up victories over the sides that could be seen as rivals.

Even the defeat at the hands to Chelsea had positives. They created chances, scored first and kept going to the end and managed a consolation strike.

Obviously times will get tougher for Swansea during this long season but it has started off well and they can build on that. With Gary Monk they have a young, enthusiastic boss who is learning all the time. He speaks well when in front of the cameras and seems to have already gained the respect of his players. Sometimes steady and consistent gains better results than flamboyance and anger.

A top ten finish would be sensational for Monk and his troops but not unimaginable!

Balance Back At Van Gaal’s Man United


It looks like Manchester United are back on a track and that can see them progressing from the mediocre performances they’ve seen so far in 2014. New manager Louis van Gaal has finally fielded a balanced side and reaped the rewards.

Against QPR, United looked far superior than they have in their previous three winless games this season.

A big part of that was down to the enhanced playing pool of players the Dutchman had at his disposal.

The returns of Rafael and Ander Herrera were very timely. Plus the arrivals of Angel Di Maria, Danny Blind, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao have brought in experience and a feel good factor.

Watching Herrera score yesterday was a bit like going back in time and watching Paul Scholes scoring at Old Trafford. He drilled in his strike from the edge of the box after a cut-back from captain Wayne Rooney. It was a composed and tidy finish and those two words summed up the twenty-five year Spaniards all round performance too.

Man of the match was record signing Angel Di Maria. He seemed to relish being the main man at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. United have lacked his dynamic energy. His ability to run at defences and provide passes for the front two will frighten most defences in the English Premier League. His superb performance was capped with a goal.

Fellow Argentine Marcos Rojo settled in well at left-back on his debut. He was able to cover in for his centre-backs when needed and also got forward when he could to add an extra dimension to attacks. It will be interesting to see if Rojo plays more as a full-back or a centre-back during the campaign. Also it has to be noted that he’ll face stronger tests against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City.

Danny Blind was the much needed anchor in midfield. He broke up QPR’s attacks, marshalling in front of his defence. He was intelligent when on the ball, constantly finding creative partners. Again it will be interesting to see how the Dutch internationalist copes against sterner opposition and if the other more attack minded midfielders can help out defensively when needed.

But the main improvement came with Van Gaal’s change in tactics. The 4-4-2 diamond formation was much easier on the eye than the 3-5-2 we had seen so far. Obviously the new personnel helps as they can fit into the 4-4-2 formation. Blind in particular as they needed a player that can get in amongst it, win the ball and provide security.

At the back the defence looked tighter with four. Tyler Blackett probably had his best game in a United shirt and looked capable beside Jonny Evans. With a three man defence the team looked vulnerable and weak. That wasn’t the case yesterday.

Up top, Man Utd look exciting with Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Rooney interchangeable in the three forward roles. Falcao needs time to settle but as soon as he gets on the scoring sheet he’ll be fine.


Things should only improve as more and more experience and talent come back from injuries.

Now this weekend showed what could be for Manchester United. They looked threatening, secure and intimidating. But lets face it, QPR are still finding there feet in their own new system. But if Van Gaal and his players can produce a similar tempo against the bigger, more established sides then maybe just maybe they can fight back into the top four.

A championship winning side? I think that will be a step too far this term but at least they are taking a step in the right direction.

Why Anya Would Be A Great Fit For Celtic


Gordon Strachan admitted he was a bit stunned that a bigger side didn’t sign latest Scotland hero Ikechi Anya during the summer transfer window. It wasn’t until he mentioned it, that I thought about it and realised that the Scottish manager was spot on.

The winger has a great amount of pace and that is a commodity that is needed in the top level. He also showed against Germany that he can be composed in his finish as he cooly slotted the ball beyond Manuel Neuer. For the Scots, Anya has provided a fantastic out ball on the wings, as his pace gets the ball played further into the opposition territory and it terrorises opposition defenders.

Both Scotland and Celtic have a rich tradition of playing exciting, speedy wingers that get their fans off seats. At Celtic, question marks remain over the fitness of James Forrest and Derk Boerrigter. Anya would give the Glasgow giants excitement on the wings and also graft as he works up and down the line helping out his defence as well as the attack.

The player would also add versatility to the Parkhead side as he can play on either wing or as a left fullback.

Another bonus is that Anya is a boy from Castlemilk which is under five miles away from Celtic Park. I always prefer Scottish sides to have a good core of Scots in their sides.

Anya also seems to be a great player to have in your squad. Strachan stated…

“His personality is really infectious. Every morning myself and the staff are the first ones up for breakfast. We make sure of it. Sometimes we are even there before breakfast opens up.

‘But every morning Ikechi is the first player through those doors. Always. Never fails.”

That dedication is admirable. The player flirted with non league football in 2008. He also spent a few years in England’s lower leagues. But instead of being content with that, Anya decided to pack his bags and travel to Spain and learn to become a better player. He plays with an enthusiasm and determination that shows he appreciates his job as a footballer but knows that he needs to constantly work hard to stay there.

His tweet after that goal against Germany, also showed he is down to earth and a a footballer with a fantastic amount of passion…


His stats for Watford were impressive last term. In thirty-five appearances in the Championship, Ikechi managed to grab five goals and create eight assists.

So when you consider his ability, his work ethic and his attitude its hard to disagree with Strachan. Anya probably deserves to be playing at a higher level and capable of holding his own. He’d be an excellent purchase for various teams.

Celtic possibly made a mistake, sticking to the loan markets rather that pursue a deal with Watford for Anya in the summer. It could come back to haunt them in December, if English Premier League sides decide to go after the twenty-six year old. If Oscar Garcia can getting Anya consistently playing at his best for the remainder of this year then its hard to see him not playing at a higher level sometime in 2015!

Can Welbeck Be ‘Dat Guy’ For Arsenal?


As Manchester United spent big, bringing in Radamel Falcao, they decided to let Danny Welbeck leave for league rivals Arsenal in a £16m deal. With Arsenal in desperate need for more strikers, has this been a good move by Arsene Wenger?

Well he is a versatile forward and we know Wenger likes players that can play in a few positions. He is also an English international and will have an understanding with Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieron Gibbs already. That should make things easier with settling into life in London.  The fact he is still on;y twenty-three, means he can still learn and improve.

But Danny is also hungry to prove himself as a main striker, through the middle. At Arsenal he’ll get that chance. Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez like to float around off the top and that means that there’s room for a striker. His main rivals for a front central role (Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud) are both out injured. At Man United, Welbeck often scored more when he was in a central position, problem was he hardly got a chance to play there unless Robin Van Persie or Wayne Rooney suffered from an injury.

The player always runs his socks off and gives his all. His attitude in that regard is unquestionable. But alas as a frontman you are often judged on goals (Just ask Emile Heskey). He certainly needs to improve on his thirty-seven career goals in 178 club appearances.  He isn’t a natural goalscorer but he does seem more prone to instinctive finishes rather than taking his time and thinking about it.

To be honest he has a the tools to do well for Arsenal. The first few months will be extremely important for both the player and the club. They need Welbeck to hit the ground running and be the focal point for all the creative stars that will play in and around him.

Is he a signing that will get you thirty goals a season and clinch you a league title? Probably not. But he can get at least fifteen with this Arsenal team and if he can hold his own until Walcott and Giroud return then he’ll already have proven himself in Wenger’s eyes.

Fending off Spurs for his signature is always looked upon kindly by the ‘Gooners’ support.

A smart signing in my opinion although I still think Arsenal needed a ball winning central midfield marshall and another centre-back. But they have enough to challenge for the title, although more new recruits may be needed in January!

Five Possible Reasons Why Man Utd Signed Falcao


So Manchester United look set to complete the biggest deal on transfer deadline day by bringing in Radamel Falcao from Monaco. The Colombian is obviously a world class player but as a striker do Man United really need more forwards in their squad?

Well here are five possible reasons why the deal might work-out in the ‘Red Devils’ favour.

1. Goals Goals Goals

The international hitman has a wonderful goal return. Falcao has 155 goals in his 200 appearances since he came to Europe in 2009. If he can recreate that kind of form in the English Premier League then he’d be expecting to get between 20-25 goals in the league and that would be huge, if United stand any chance of breaking back into the ‘Top Four’.

2. Perfect Cover For Van Persie

Robin van Persie has had an injury plagued career. When fit, he can be sensational but at the moment he can’t seem to reach maximum fitness. Talk is that the Dutchman needs an operation on his knee. If true and Van Persie is facing time on the side lines then the loan to bring in Radamel would provide instant cover up top.

3. Football Status

With this signing along with Angel Di Maria coming to Old Trafford, Man United have proven this summer that even without Champions League football they can attract top quality signings. It helps to sell merchandise and keep the share price up too.

4. It’s Only A Loan 

With a £6m loan it’s not a huge amount to spend if it doesn’t go well, plus you can then send him back to AS Monaco next summer. If it goes well, then they have a set fee to keep him beyond this term.

5. Hungry Player 

The striker will be out to prove himself once again in a higher league with a major footballing force. Last season in Ligue 1, along with his injury, will be seen by the Colombian as a lost year. That should mean that he hits the ground running with Man Utd, determined to show the world that he’s fit again and still a fabulous frontman!

It will be interesting to see just how Louis van Gaal fits Radamel Falcao into his United squad. To me, that United team still lacks a commanding centre-half and balance. But they have sold off some of the deadwood and the Falcao signing could impress the fans.

Will he score enough to fire Manchester Utd up the league and into the ‘Top Four’? Only time will tell.

Can Loic Remy Have A Say In Where The Premier League Title Ends Up?


Both Chelsea and Arsenal seem set to battle it out for French forward Loic Remy‘s signature.

With only a day to go before the transfer window slams shut, both London clubs need at least one more goalscorer in their squad to feel more confident in a major title challenge.

Chelsea have just loaned out Fernando Torres to Milan. They’ve also sold Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba, plus freed Samuel Eto’o this summer. They have brought back ‘Blues’ icon Didier Drogba and spent big getting world-class striker Diego Costa in at the Bridge. Jose Mourinho also has a few in his squad that can play in a false nine role.

But the Portuguese manager has sensed with the Torres departure, that one more hitman could be needed just to keep things ticking over.

With Remy they would be getting a different type of striker. Costa can offer both pace and strength and will always be the number one striker (especially when in-form like he is at the moment). But the Spanish internationalist is prone to hamstring problems and could pick up quite a few cards and suspensions in a season.

So extra cover could be important. Drogba is known for his bulldozing power but sometimes you need a different option. That’s where Remy comes in as he has an abundance of pace that will threaten any back line. He could be seen as the new Nicolas Anelka at Stamford Bridge. A great foil and back-up striker.

Arsenal’s need is even more obvious. Main striker Olivier Giroud faces months on the sidelines with a broken foot. Youngsters Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo are both still too raw to lead the line in a full-time capacity. Theo Walcott is still not match fit. That puts a lot of pressure on £32m man Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean can play up top but Arsenal need a plan b and an experienced forward to offer goals and competition, no matter what Arsene Wenger tries to tell us. Remy could be a poor mans Thierry Henry!

It should also be noted that Loic is a self-confessed ‘Gunner’.

As I’ve already mentioned Remy gives any potential employer a great outlet up-front with his vast pace. The QPR man also has a good instinct for getting goals. His English Premier League (EPL) experience could be vital too. Both sides want a player that can settle in quickly. His twenty goals in forty-one EPL appearances is highly impressive. Then you add in the factor that he’ll only cost you £10.5m due to a buy-out clause.

So you can see why both Premier League powerhouses want the French internationalist. But his attitude has been called into question in the past and then we have the medical questions too.

A move to Liverpool collapsed this summer due to a failed medical and during his Marseille days in 2010 it was announced that Remy suffered from a heart defect. That condition didn’t stop him moving to L’OM or QPR for that matter but it’ll be interesting to see how Chelsea/Arsenal deal with his medical.

By the second of September we shall know who Loic Remy will line up for this season. It could be a huge decision. All league winning teams need strength and depth, especially in the forward areas. The twenty-seven year old will bring goals and that could help bring the league title back to London!

Oxlade-Chamberlain Could Be England’s Brightest Star!


So now that the ‘Golden Generation’ of England has finally fizzled out with nothing but thoughts of what could have been. National team boss Roy Hodgson needs new stars to step up and shine.

New captain Wayne Rooney bridges the two generations but the Manchester United star has had a bit of a tough time of it as of late. Question marks surround the forward with many including former teammate Paul Scholes asking if the Man United hitman has already peaked in his career. Can he thrive with the added pressure of being captain at both club and country.

Many pundits and fans alike have high hopes for Everton’s Ross Barkley. But the youngster still has a lot to learn in top flight football. He needs to be able to reach his potential in his own time and not rushed just because he has vast potential. Hopefully he can return from his knee injury and get more games under his belt. Then become an England star in time for Euro 2016.

For me though, Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be the player that Roy builds his team around. The twenty-one year old has great ability and presence that can hurt most teams, when he is on-song.

He can play out wide or in attacking central midfield position. The ‘Gunner’ already has fifteen caps and three international goals. He possesses both pace and strength. Both are needed to excel in the biggest games both for club and country. The creative player can also skip past opponents with the slump of a shoulder, a burst of pace or a nice bit of skill.

Against Brazil in the Maracana in 2013, Oxlade-Chamberlain shone. He was fantastic on the ball and the team looked to him as an inspiration. He rounded off that fine performance with a wonderful goal too.

At Arsenal he never looks out of place in the company of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.

Now this is an important season for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He needs to finally stay clear from niggling injuries and be ready to help Arsenal challenge for the title. The midfield maestro also needs to score more regularly and create more assists too!

His club manager, Arsene Wenger, has paid the midfielder a high compliment by comparing the talent to that of Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham.

The player has a huge amount of talent and the right attitude. If he manages to stay clear from injuries then he could be the star that Roy Hodgson needs when it comes to starting life after messrs Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Why Squad Numbers Shouldn’t Be Messed With In Football

Number 5

Samuel Eto’o signed for Everton this week. it looks like a good deal for the ‘Toffees’ as the experienced striker can provide top-class back up for Romelu Lukaku and the big Belgian can also learn from the African legend.

But one part of the deal irks me! That is Samuel’s squad number. The striker will be wearing number five! That is not a strikers number. I like my numbers to be pretty simple and uncomplicated. Certain numbers including five can be used for used for various positions but not all. Others like one and nine are just fit for certain positions.

Here is my guide to squad numbers.

  1. Goalkeeper and only goalkeeper
  2. Right-back or a versatile right sided defender
  3. Left-back or a versatile left sided defender
  4. Centre-back or defensive mid
  5. Left-back (especially if Dutch) or Centre-back. Also good for South American defensive mids
  6. Centre back or defensive mids or just central midfielders
  7. Right winger/midfielder or a maverick forward
  8. Central midfielder or attacking midfielder
  9. Striker, usually your top scorer
  10. Target man, forward, attacking mid or free role
  11. Left winger
  12. Defensive cover or a French striker
  13. Sub keeper
  14. Sub defender or def mid
  15. Supersub striker
  16. Defensive mid or a French keeper
  17. Young attacker

22. Could be third choice goalie

The rest can be pretty interchangeable. That said I’ve always like my attacking players to have odd numbers and the defensive ones have even.

Also I’d prefer it if the kept all numbers under forty unless they are youth players just breaking through towards the end of the season. Mario Balotelli shouldn’t be 45, they had seven available.

No one ever should given the 00 number unless its James Bond and followed with a seven!

Maybe Moyes Wasn’t To Blame For Man United Misery

Man Utd badge

Many speculated that sacking David Moyes would at least stop the rot setting in further at Manchester United. When Dutch legend Louis van Gaal took over this summer after a hugely successful World Cup with the Netherlands, many Man Utd fan rejoiced and looked forward to a vastly improved season.

During preseason United scored six victories in seven outings. Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation was heralded as a stroke of genius as Utd geared up for the new campaign.

There has also been some major moves in the transfer market with Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo all joining. United confirmed the British record signing of Angel Di Maria this evening for a fee of around £59.3m.

But Van Gaal and the United faithful haven’t had time to celebrate. Barely hours after the Di Maria announcement and his new club were humbled and humiliated in the League Cup suffering a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of League One side MK Dons.

That comes after the Old Trafford side failed to win in their opening two Premier League fixtures. Losing at home to Swansea and drawing away at Sunderland.

The new formation is clearly not working. Louis needs to see that he doesn’t have the personnel available to him to get the best out of 3-5-2. Especially with a squad void of any morale. The formation needs a lot of pressing and possession. Currently the ‘Red Devils’ lack hunger and determination. The players treat the ball like a hot potato and get rid of it as quickly as possible, usually to their opponents!

The amount of injuries that Man United have suffered so far this term is alarming. Van Gaal has been known to over train his players in the past, and that has resulted in a vast amount of niggles and strains. Is history repeating itself?

There is also still too much deadwood in this United squad. The pool is populated with too many faces that constantly under perform. More need to leave and let the rest breathe.

Yet even with all these players, Manchester United have still to find a ball winning, dynamic midfielder. A player that they’ve been calling out for, for a few years now!

Interestingly enough, most of the criticism this term seems to be aimed at the players themselves. Now I’m not totally against that but last year it was all David Moyes fault. If this was 2013/14 United support would have already be calling for Moyes to go at these three results in a row. Yet Van Gaal’s reputation seems to protect him from the harshest of criticism.

But lets look at facts, United haven’t bought well for a few seasons now. Ed Woodward needs to be questioned. Its all very well breaking transfer records every window but you need to improve on all areas of the team, not just creative midfielders. The team desperately need a veteran centre-half that can take that defence by the scruff of the neck and pull them up.

David Moyes must be watching this team play and smiling to himself, knowing it wasn’t all his fault. The problems at United go from the top (board) to the bottom (vast squad including too many mediocre fringe players).

The whole club is broken and it should look at going back to basics first. Stick to a trusted, solid formation that the players understand. Be strong, resolute and attack down the wings. Scrap and fight for results if you have too. Get back the fear factor and build on any success you have and then build on it.

Only then will they be able to come out the other end and be ready to try out new systems and philosophies.

Chelsea Look The Real Deal With Key Signings


Although Jose Mourinho proclaimed himself ‘the happy one’ upon his return to Stamford Bridge, after ending the season with no silverware to his name, chances are he was far from that moniker.

For a man who has amassed 19 trophies in 14 years with his various clubs, failure is not an option. Mourinho has regrouped this summer and made some pertinent signings in key areas and judging by Monday season opener they could prove to be invaluable to the blues. Samuel Eto’o has departed, alongside old Mourinho faithful’s Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. Their replacements however, more than justify the ends of an era.


Diego Costa (£32m – Atletico Madrid)

The 25-year-old Brazilian-born Spanish international was something of an unknown quantity till two years ago.

However, 10 goals in 16 league games for Rayo Vallecano prompted Atletico to give him his break through chance in the 2012/13 season.

Costa proceeded to rattle in 37 league goals in 66 games and began attracting not only interest from clubs around Europe, but the nations too, as Spain battled to make him an adopted son in time for the 2014 World Cup in his actual homeland, Brazil.

Costa is a highly aggressive, controversial figure on the pitch but is also bullish around goal with a powerful build, ruthless finishing and superior aerial qualities.

Mourinho often bemoaned his side’s lack of potency last year, and following a less than impressive World Cup, Costa has already set out in pre-season to prove a point. This continued with the forward only taking 17 minutes to open his premier league account, something his fellow Spanish international Torres took 734 minutes to do. The Premier League Golden Boot could be coming to Stamford Bridge for the first time since a certain Ivorian…


Didier Drogba (Free – Galatasaray)

As a few of Mourinho’s reliable old guard departed, one of his prodigal sons returned.

Drogba will be 37-years-old in March 2015 and has no doubt come to play second fiddle to Costa in his second spell at the Bridge. However, Drogba still has a lot to offer this Chelsea side through invaluable experience and his knack for scoring important goals.

Drogba also still carries that all-important ‘winner’s mentality’ that Mourinho constantly exudes – the chance to have that rub off on the younger talent is invaluable.


Cesc Fabregas (£30m – Barcelona)

Many people believe the former Arsenal man is the perfect replacement for Chelsea legend Frank Lampard due to his offensive capabilities.

The 27-year-old Spaniard reached double figures for both goals and assists in all of his three seasons with Barcelona, and his most fruitful Premier League campaign saw him score 19 and make 17 goals in 27 league games for Arsenal in 09/10.

Fabregas is sure to add some much needed creativity and reliable goal scoring to the Chelsea midfield, with his best years ahead of him. He can play a vital part in Chelsea’s fortunes this term, and along with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, this has to be regarded as one of the deals of the window. Like Costa, Fabregas debut could not have gone any better, Fabregas laid on 2 assists and looked like he had never been away from the league, a shrewd bit of business indeed.



Filipe Luis (£16m – Atletico Madrid)

Although Cesar Azpilicueta starred for Chelsea in the left-back slot last season, Mourinho has sought to bring some more balance to his back-line with the competitive and dependable Filipe Luis.

Since his move to Madrid from Deportivo, the Brazilian has starred in the meteoric rise of Atletico and has shown he is just as adept to moving forward as he is to his stout defending duties.

After turning 29 last week, Luis may not be the long-term solution that Luke Shaw’s move to Manchester United represents, but he certainly has the pedigree that potential can only strive to match.